Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Carlton: Why protest the presidential election? Because it's America

About 1,000 people gathered at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg to peacefully protest President-elect Donald Trump. The group then traveled through downtown and according to estimates is the largest organized protest of Donald Trump in the Tampa Bay area since the election. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

About 1,000 people gathered at Demens Landing in St. Petersburg to peacefully protest President-elect Donald Trump. The group then traveled through downtown and according to estimates is the largest organized protest of Donald Trump in the Tampa Bay area since the election. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]

Had this monumental presidential election gone the other way — the way a whole lot of people across America thought it would — right now there would be some serious eye-rolling going on.

If the protests that have played out in cities across America were about Hillary Clinton winning — or more specifically, Donald Trump not winning — a lot of people would look at those chanting crowds waving their signs and think:

Get over it already.

You lost.

Move on with your life.

Your yelling changes exactly nothing.

This is America. It's what we do. But is there a point in protesting a fact you cannot change — that Trump is America's next president?

I asked Tampa community organizer Kelly Benjamin, who has been part of post-election anti-Trump rallies, including Sunday night's sizable march in downtown St. Petersburg. He does not mince words, talking about racism and sexism and fear of what's to come, invoking people who spoke out as Hitler came into power and talking about the loss of progress his country has made.

"Right now, this is a safety valve," he says. "People are frustrated. People are afraid for their future, their family, their friends, their neighbors."

"People aren't crybabies," he says.

At rallies, he says, he's seen men and women, gay and straight, professionals, firefighters, teachers, military. "I saw people from all walks of life raising their voices," Benjamin says. "What could be more American than that?"

It's a point. The right to peacefully demonstrate our dissent is hard-fought — I'll even use the word precious — and also something that does not happen in other places without risk of terrible repercussion.

"I think first and foremost, it gives people a sense of hope that there is a united resistance," Benjamin says.

There has been a thing particularly disheartening in news reports about these protests across the country: Some participants who are interviewed acknowledge that they voted for neither Clinton nor Trump, they did not vote at all or they voted for one of the other candidates who stood no chance whatsoever. Even with stakes so high.

But that's America, too: your right to be apathetic or to throw your vote into the wind. And then, to complain about how things turn out afterward anyway. We protect that, too.

Benjamin also points out that from united opposition can spring movement.

Change, in the old-school definition of the word.

"The day after Obama's election, did we not see the birth of the tea party? Do you remember?" he says. "I think that's important to recognize — when their side lost, they did the exact same thing."

And it's about organizing for the next four years, he says.

"We can't sit this stuff out," he says. "We can't stay home."

For some people, maybe it is a loss so great they can't let it can't pass without some kind of action.

Maybe it's less about thinking a movement could alter who won and more about giving dissent the kind of voice that comes from great numbers of them pulling together.

And maybe it's about making sure history reflects that people pushed back in a place where they still can.

Sue Carlton can be reached at carlton@tampabay.com.

Carlton: Why protest the presidential election? Because it's America 11/18/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 18, 2016 6:12pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Half of Florida lawmakers fail or nearly fail review of support for public records

    State Roundup

    WEST PALM BEACH — Half of Florida's legislators failed or nearly failed in a review of their support for public records and meetings given by Florida newspapers and an open-government group after this year's legislative sessions.

    State Senator Bill Galvano, R- Bradenton (left) and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran ranked on opposite sides of the spectrum in an analysis of support for open records. Galvano scored a B-minus and Corcoran scored a D-plus.
[Times file photo]
  2. Yale dean on leave over offensive Yelp reviews leaves post

    Bizarre News

    NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A Yale University dean who was placed on leave over offensive reviews she posted on Yelp has left her position at the Ivy League institution, school officials said Tuesday.

  3. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  4. The people you meet along O.J. Howard Lane

    Bucs

    OJ Howard (far right) is seen in a photo from his adolescent years at Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Prattville, Ala., on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Howard served as an usher in addition to attending regular services at this church.